The U.S. Has Wasted Billions of Dollars on Failed Arab Armies

(Foreign Policy) Kenneth M. Pollack - The U.S. has spent 70 years and tens of billions of dollars training Arab militaries - with almost nothing to show for all the effort. The U.S.-trained Egyptian Armed Forces performed miserably in 1991 during Operation Desert Storm. The U.S.-trained Iraqi Army collapsed when attacked by a couple thousand Islamic State zealots in 2014. The U.S.-trained Saudi military fell flat when it intervened in Yemen in 2015. In recent years, Americans have begun to eye an exit from the Middle East, but few want to walk away and have Iran, Hizbullah, the Islamic State, al-Qaeda, or other U.S. enemies take over. In an ideal world, America would leave behind strong Arab allies, able to defend themselves from their common foes. But that seems far away today. A series of problems have haunted Arab armies throughout the modern era. The Arab world never really industrialized, and this meant that many Arabs came to the military without much understanding of advanced machinery. As a result, Arab personnel often failed to get the full potential out of their weapons and invariably failed to maintain them properly, with the result that the real numbers of tanks, planes, and artillery pieces they could field were far fewer than what they had purchased. Generations of U.S. military personnel who went off to the Middle East to try to teach one or another Arab army to fight like the U.S. armed forces can attest to the stubbornness of these problems. Because the problems they were trying to fix stemmed from these societal factors, I heard the same complaints over and over again, from country to country and decade to decade. The writer, a former CIA intelligence analyst who served on the National Security Council staff, is a resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute.

2019-02-04 00:00:00

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